Nearly 5000 elderly people waiting to get free personal care

Almost 5000 elderly people have been left waiting to get free personal care, according to the first national survey of the free personal care scheme.

Figures released by the Scottish Executive, from February 2006, revealed that 709 pensioners were on a list to get their care package after passing an assessment. A further 4005 were still waiting for their assessment to be completed. This can take up to 10 weeks, fuelling suspicions that councils are using this process to delay spending funds they say are stretched.

The scale of the waiting list was disclosed by Lewis Macdonald, the deputy minister responsible for community care. He was answering a written question from Shona Robison, SNP health spokeswoman, with figures he admitted could cause alarm among old people. He said they should be understood in context, in that they were a snapshot of the situation in February, based on responses from Scotland's 32 councils, and gave no indication of how long people were being forced to wait.

The statistics suggest the council with the biggest waiting list by far is Edinburgh, with nearly 1600 people waiting to be assessed, though last night it challenged the figures. Peter Gabbitas, director of social care, said the figure represented the number of people going through the assessment system, which could take more than one visit, and stressed that cases were screened within one day for urgency, and could then be handled immediately.

Other councils with large waiting lists include Highland, Fife, Stirling, East Lothian, Perth and Kinross, and Argyll and Bute, which was the only council to have admitted before yesterday it had been using waiting lists and did not have money to fund people assessed as needing care. Figures published with the health committee's report yesterday also provide an embarrassment for some councils, after half of them disclosed information on waiting times to MSPs, through freedom of information requests, and the other half failed to do so within the required deadline.

New figures reveal 4700 people on free care waiting lists (The Herald, 14 June 2006)